Class Pictures Show School's Changes

The class pictures hanging in the teachers' lounge at the state-religious Nir Etzion school in Petah Tikva graphically reflect the change the school has undergone in recent years. Only a very small percentage of the students looking into the camera are from families that have been in the country for years and years.

An internal document from the Petah Tikva municipality indicates that when school year begins in another 10 days, all 313 children at the school will be of Ethiopian origin.

Eitan, who finished sixth grade there last year, was born in Israel to parents who immigrated from Ethiopia. When he started first grade, he said, the student body was entirely different. "In the other classes there were a lot more white children, but gradually we became the majority. It actually doesn't bother me, because the school gives a lot of help, and we also understand each other better. A lot of parents in the neighborhood took their children out of the school. I don't know if it was because of prejudice against Ethiopians or because they thought the level of the school was low."

Nir Etzion primarily serves children from the city's Yoseftal neighborhood, where many families of Ethiopian origin have moved in.

"Long-time Israeli families that could do so left the neighborhood," says a municipal source. Those who couldn't do so transferred their children to private religious schools and even in a small number of cases to state secular schools. No one intended this, but the result was Nir Etzion became an Ethiopian ghetto."